A 79-year-old man suspected of mixing chemicals used in fireworks at his Mqabba home was last night fighting for his life in hospital after an explosion.

Police sources said he may have been mixing chemicals used in ground fireworks

Police sources said Nicholas Ghigo may have been mixing chemicals used in ġigġifogu, ground fireworks, which had been his and his brothers’ passion since childhood.

Police said in a statement the “explosion” happened at around 1.30pm in Parish Street.

Mr Ghigo suffered burns in his hands, feet and chest before managing to escape the blaze and staggering to the police station next door for help. He was subsequently rushed to hospital.

He had already been injured in a similar incident in 1975, suffering burns to 32 per cent of his body while mixing colours.

Mr Ghigo’s son Michael, who lived in the same village, was alerted to the fire by neighbours.

He rushed to his father’s residence, where he said he found “a small fire blazing in the yard”. His father had already been taken to hospital by the time he arrived.

According to Mr Ghigo’s son, the carpet, some wire extension cords and a crate of onions were on fire. Possessing experience in fire fighting, he managed to put out the fire.

He claimed he had no idea what might have started the fire, repeatedly stressing that his father suffered from dementia.

In a statement, the police said the fire was ignited by an explosion.

Neighbours who spoke to The Times said they heard a small blast and felt vibrations.

“The smoke was white, not the dense, black smoke which indicates an explosion caused by aerial fireworks. Ground fireworks are different,” a neighbour said, adding that the cartridges would be small and the blast less intense.

“Kola [Nicholas] loved his ground fireworks.”

Others slightly farther away from the Ghigo residence claimed they felt nothing at all.

They were alerted to the incident by the sight of police cars and a fire engine.

Another neighbour confirmed that smoke drifted over his house, but did not last long as the wind quickly dissipated it.

Mr Ghigo’s residence is interconnected to his daughter’s residence. No one else was injured.

Court-appointed chemical expert Alfred Vella and the army’s bomb disposal unit were on site. An inquiry was being led by Magistrate Gabriella Vella.

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